5 Things We Learned From SmackDown Last Night

WWE SmackDown has become somewhat of an afterthought in recent months. With much of the heavy storyline emphasis in WWE being placed on their Monday night show, Tuesdays had sometimes started to feel like a chore to get through.

That will not be the case any longer.

With the news breaking on Tuesday afternoon that Daniel Bryan had been cleared for a full in-ring return, anticipation for Tuesday night's edition of SmackDown reached record levels. Add in the fact that WWE announced Bryan would open the show and wrestling fans couldn't wait for that clock to strike 8:00 eastern.

We definitely got a memorable edition of SmackDown this week and some moments that will undoubtedly be replayed forever. The Bryan return (rightfully) over-shadowed nearly everything else on the show, but this was a two hour broadcast after all.

Here are five things we learned from last night's SmackDown Live.

1. This Was One of the Most Emotional Wrestling Moments in Years

Daniel Bryan's return reminded us of exactly what he possesses that so many would be main eventers have lacked in the wrestling business over the last decade: a genuine, emotion connection with the audience.

Bryan spoke of the trials and tribulations he went through in trying to get cleared for an in-ring return. He spoke lovingly and emotionally about his wife Brie, who pushed him to never give up and to follow his dreams. He talked about being grateful for what he already had while never giving up on his dream to return to the ring.

In the end, Bryan didn't announce an official return to the ring date, but as he glanced at the WrestleMania sign and the crowd chanted "WrestleMania" and "Yes," it became pretty obvious when that match will come.

2. Rusev Isn't Getting That Push Anytime Soon

Despite being one of the most popular stars with the crowd in recent months, the head-scratching use of Rusev continued this week.

Following Bryan's emotional opening segment, Rusev took on Shinsuke Nakamura with AJ Styles doing guest commentary. Clearly, this didn't bode well for Rusev.

With absolutely zero chance to win a match over the WrestleMania title challenger, Rusev was in no-man's land and ended up losing clean to Nakamura. Nothing like putting one of your hottest names in an obvious loss situation to keep up that momentum. Bravo, guys!

It's hard to imagine Rusev making the WrestleMania card at this point outside of the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, and the bad thing about that is there's no chance we're getting another sweet entrance on a tank.

3. Natalya May Have The Best Powerbomb In The Company

Charlotte and Natalya had what was undoubtedly the best match of the show at the end of the first hour. Not only did we get a great contest between two of the best ring generals in the women's division, but there was another tease of a Money in the Bank cash in.

Following a big top rope superplex by Natalya, Carmella ran out and teased a cash in. After giving the brief case to an official, she turned around to a big boot from Charlotte. This allowed to Natalya to roll up a distracted Charlotte for a three count.

The bell never rang for the cash in, so that remains a threat at WrestleMania, and we're again reminded that Natalya is always a force to be reckoned with. Plus, check out this awesome powerbomb.

4. This U.S. Title Feud Lacks Interest

They had a pretty basic segment involving U.S. Champion Randy Orton, Jinder Mahal, and Bobby Roode on the show to help (anticipation?) to their triple threat at WrestleMania.

Nothing particularly memorable happened here.

Mahal talked about how he could have been a big star in Bollywood but chose to stay in WWE, bringing prestige to the WWE championship during his title reign. He said he made SmackDown the number one show yet got no respect from the fans.

Bobby Roode interrupted him and told Jinder that when it comes to respect from the fans, it's a two-way street. He went on to say that Mahal only deserves to lose the title back to him at WrestleMania, which brought out Orton.

Orton talked about being forgotten about when people talk about the greats in WWE. A fight ensued, which involved Sunil Singh being shoved to Orton and Roode as Mahal ran off. Sunil took a Glorious DDT as Roode prevented Randy from hitting the RKO, teasing heat between them. They also announced Singh and Mahal versus Roode and Orton on next week's show.

When you compare this secondary title feud to what's going on with the Intercontinental title on RAW, it pales in comparison.

5. Bryan Looks To Have No Restrictions

For those of you who think Bryan's return may mean he has some restrictions on his style and you won't be seeing the Daniel Bryan of old, this show made it clear that you would be absolutely wrong in thinking so.

The show closed with Bryan confronting both Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens about their attack of Shane McMahon last week. While Bryan admitted during the segment to being sympathetic to the two of them over the previous few months, he couldn't grasp why they would have attacked McMahon after they got everything they wanted: Shane leaving, Bryan in charge, and a singles match at WrestleMania.

Bryan said that he had no choice but to fire him, which he did, but not without retailiation from them. Bryan got in some offense, including a series of corner dropkicks (landing on his head) and some Yes Kicks. But it was mostly the duo of Zayn and Owens working over Bryan.

Bryan took a massive Helluva Kick in the corner, as well as a huge powerbomb on the outside from Owens to the ring apron. It was evidence that Bryan was ready to go out there and take anything and everything and it was a great close to the show.

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To me, the real highlight in this segment was Kevin Owens. He portrayed someone who was tormented to be attacking Bryan and doing what he was doing, and the visible portrayal of this was something to behold. Owens would scream at the top of his lungs and pull at his hair, frustrated and tortured by his own actions yet vicious anyway.

With this segment and Bryan's return, SmackDown has instantly went from an after though to must-see television once again. We're clearly getting Shane and Bryan vs. Sami and Kevin at WrestleMania and the next couple of weeks should be an absolute treat to watch as we journey down the road to WrestleMania.

Other Thoughts On This Week's Show

  • Tye Dillinger (no entrance) and Baron Corbin had a match. They botched the finish, went to the outside, and then did the finishing sequence again. It wasn't good.
  • The Usos had another good promo lead into Jimmy Uso vs. Luke Harper, so expect us to get a mix and match series of singles matches between the Usos, New Day, and Bludgeon Brothers until WrestleMania. Harper won, for what it's worth.
  • Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan lost to Naomi and Becky Lynch in a brief tag team encounter. Nothing really to speak of other than the almost criminal under-utilization of Becky Lynch that has been going on for months.